- Woodwind Quintet Nº 1 – Nashville Nature Walk 8:07
A wind quintet, also known as a woodwind quintet, is a group of five wind players (most commonly: flute, oboe, clarinet, horn, and bassoon). Unlike a string quartet (comprised of four string instruments) with its homogeneous blend of sound color, the instruments in a wind quintet considerably differ from each other in technique, idiom, and timbre. It’s that “quirkiness” of the ensemble players that makes it a particularly interesting challenge for the composer.
I have been listening to the music of Frank Zappa for fifty years. Although he passed in the early 1990s, he has arguably most commonly been remembered for the crazy and even offensive lyrics contained in some of his 1960s-1980s songs. Later in life, he focused on orchestral works. Major orchestras from Los Angeles to London have performed the classical works he composed near the end of his life. This classical repertoire of Zappa’s works continues to be performed today. In my opinion, he has (finally) been recognized as one of the most prominent American composers of the 20th century. This piece is my humble tribute to his genius and the resulting orchestral works he composed.
I moved to Nashville in very early 2021. When Spring arrived, I noticed all kinds of animal and fowl sounds in my backyard and on walking trails here that I had not heard for a long time. Living in Cincinnati and Chicago for 48 years, I was accustomed to the perpetual din of city sounds: autos, trains, jets overhead, and other urban constants. In my area of rural Greater Nashville, there is a cacophony of birds, crows, buzzards, cows, frogs, and even a donkey. On one memorable walking trail experience, they all seemed to congregate, creating a ricocheting of sounds which were new and exciting to me. “Transcribing” those sounds into music for the quirky ensemble of a woodwind quintet was evidenced in this work.
The flute and oboe play the parts of the many birds. While the clarinet joins in the fowl sounds; it also flutters around sounding like the buzzards and doves that are overhead from time to time. The bass clarinet, horn and bassoon are representing the cows and well, sometimes, the donkey. At the end of the piece, you’ll hear the instruments all “freak out” (Zappa’s first album in 1966) in a flurry of sounds. This represents to me when my feathered friends are sitting on a tree or power line and then suddenly fly away in an urgent rush.
I hope you enjoy this Zappa tribute in my Woodwind Quintet Nº 1. The sounds it represents really help me to appreciate my new home here in the South whenever I take a Nashville Nature Walk